Olympus Wants to Taste Your Banana

Give me your
Let me taste
nyum nyum nyum nyum

The ad started airing Saturday and I kept straining my ears each time to make sure I heard it correctly. Olympus wants your banana with help from the band 요조.

Good Man says the lyrics include slurping sounds. He says the song isn’t bad, though. He says, “It’s about a not fully yellow banana, and it goes into your mouth—”

This is where I broke into a fit of airy giggles.

“And nobody knows how time goes so fast.”

I’m still giggling.

Study Methods

A few months ago, Whitey asked for my Korean study methods. A few days ago, I discussed the same thing with Jennifer.

I use the Sogang books. I like these books for a few reasons: they focus on common language (-yo form first instead of starting with -sumnida, like Yonsei does), translations aren’t provided right next to the text (my eye naturally drifts to English), and they progressively get harder (level 1A, for example, translates everything in the appendices, whereas 2B only includes scripts and translations for the listening portion).

These books have 3 practice dialogues, a reading section (with follow up questions), and a listening section (with follow up questions). There is also a workbook.

I usually take about a week per chapter. The first day I make flashcards, using the vocabulary lists and grammar points at the end of the lesson. I also read through the dialogues and reading section. The second day, I practice the dialogues, hopefully with Good Man, so I can make inappropriate sentences. The third day, I do the reading section and answer the questions. The fourth and fifth days are usually workbooks days. The sixth day is the day I do the listening section. The seventh day is a slip day/review day/self-assigned writing (or blogging) day.

I sometimes take longer than a week, as I have with this chapter, but my general study order is still the same. I have found, over time, that this works best for me.

I usually review the flashcards every day. I review them once or twice Korean to English first. If I know Korean to English, they go into another stack. That stack I study English to Korean once a day. Once I know a card English to Korean, it goes into a third stack. The third stack is not studied every day. I study that stack after two days, maybe after three or four. Although I’m constantly adding cards to that stack, I keep making the length of time between reviews longer and longer until I’m pretty sure I know the words. Once I know the words, I wrap the stack up, date it, and file it. I review the stack again after one week, two weeks, and a month. I tend to keep about two weeks worth of cards in one stack. If I ever get the card wrong, it goes back to the second stack until I know it again. It’s not at all scientific, but I’ve sort of figured out how long it takes before I know a card. It’s my version of the Leitner System.

The flashcards I make must be unusual, because they confuse everyone else the first time they see them. I write the flashcards so that you turn them over top to bottom, not side to side. This makes it easier to hold them while standing on a subway train. I also color-code them. I will add a stroke in green above a ㅈ that sounds like a ㅊ. I will write a ㄹ over the ㄴ in green ink in the word 살날 to remind me of the shifting sound. I’ll circle irregular endings in red to remind myself to drop the ㅂ (for example). When I’m writing out grammar patterns, I’ll write an example of irregular verbs in red to help me remember them.

While I’m doing this, I’m also reading Korean books whenever I want. As a teacher, I know about the zone of proximal development. But I find Korean books that are just at or just above my level can be a bit boring. So usually I read whatever I want and don’t worry about it. If the book is too hard (like The Little Prince, which I’m reading now), I read it chapter by chapter in English first. I tend not to worry about the words I don’t know. I just read for enjoyment.

Now that I’m nearly done with The Little Prince, I found a copy of it as a graphic novel. I plan on reading it solely in Korean because the pictures provide such good support. I will probably choose 5-10 vocabulary words/grammar patterns in each chapter to add to my flashcard stack.

If I’m reading a book closer to my level (like the Once Upon a Time in Korea book), I will pay more attention to grammar and vocabulary, taking note of problem areas.

I tend to read stories I like over and over again. I know young children do this when they’re reading, too. I guess I’m like a child that way. But if I like a story, I’ll practice reading it again and again for fluency and enjoyment. I’ll also read out loud to practice my pronunciation.

In fact, I find moving my lips slightly when I read in Korean helps keep me on track. I hate doing it because it makes me feel like a young child, and I can’t remember the last time I had to do it in English, but right now my level is low enough that I need to do it. (For the record, when I teach, I let kids move their lips, whisper read, use their finger to track, whatever. I don’t care, as long as they’re reading.) I only tend to move my lips when I’m reading something difficult; when I’m reading at my level, the mouth stays shut.

I write in Korean whenever I feel like it. I try to write using only words and grammar patterns that I know, though I will look up a new word if necessary. I usually have Good Man look over my writing. Sometimes I have someone else look after it too, since Good Man is not very picky about markers and the like.

I practice speaking mostly at taekwondo. Good Man and I have agreed to speak Korean once a week, but we haven’t been very successful at it yet.

I also make goals to keep track of what I’m doing. This year my primary goal is to study through 3B. I’d also like to read Pippi Longstocking in Korean by the end of the year.

That’s Just Not Fair

This weekend was a rather low-key affair. Good Man, who is usually a bad son, was being a good son this weekend, so we didn’t meet at all.

Good Man, like most single Koreans, lives with his family (primarily his mother and sister since his father works abroad). If I didn’t understand Korean culture, if I were an outsider looking at a friend who was living here and dating Good Man, I’d wonder what the hell she was thinking, (seriously) dating a man who still lived at home.

Related Side
As a related side note, despite Thursday’s high about studying Korean, Friday I crashed. I started Sogang 3A and I’ve got to wonder if I’m ever going to break through the low-intermediate level. When I first started studying Korean, progress was so, so visible. But now it’s much slower and I feel a bit frustrated with that. Also, I’m concerned about losing my Korean level when I go back to the States because I don’t know anyone who’s kept up their learned-abroad foreign language after moving back to the States.

The thing is, I actually do want to learn Korean. In order to survive in Korea, you really only need to get though Sogang 1B, in my opinion, though lots of people do fine getting through the level that 1A would put you at. Heck, lots of people learn only Bar Korean and do fine (so they say; the funny thing is that my bar Korean isn’t great because I don’t go to bars a lot!). I know that I won’t have nearly as much an opportunity to use Korean in the States, and I know that in my field, being bilingual in Korean wouldn’t be very useful.

But I am no longer learning Korean because I need to but because I want to. I enjoy learning it, I like being able to write short stories in it. I like being able to read stories (albeit easy ones!) in Korean. Most of the time I like to be able to communicate with the people around me (though lately my neighbor has been bothering me and I’ve been pretending I don’t understand her).

Also, although I know the following are probably considered poor reasons to learn a language, I want to be able to speak with Good Man in front of my family without them understanding us. (Yes, that makes me sound evil, but I own it.) I don’t want to come across as some twit who lives abroad for two years and who can’t communicate in their Other Country’s language! Finally, I never became fluent in either Spanish or Swedish and I don’t want to be one of those monolingual Americans.

But I can’t even get Good Man to speak Korean with me. Actually, that’s not entirely true. We’ve done it a bit. At first he spoke too fast. Then he spoke word-by-word-and-it-was-too-choppy. Now he’s figured out this really good method where he speaks slowly in phrases, in chunks. But since my level is still fairly low, we usually switch to English. This is usually my fault because though he’ll slip into English, if I stay in Korean, he comes back. But what happens is that I slip into English and stay there.

So all of these things came together this weekend to make me feel frustrated and a bit pessimistic about learning Korean.

Back to the Story
I was chatting with Good Man online and I told him why I was frustrated about Korean. He promised

I will practice Korean, but I will not tell how to download TV in your PC

Later, we were chatting in English and I expressed frustration with his living situation. In the middle of my complaining, he said “한국어로 이야기하자.” Let’s speak Korean.

I stared at the screen. Oh now that’s just not fair! We always hash things out in English. But hey, if he wants to do that, OK. Always hashing things out in English isn’t really fair, either.

I wrote back “더 어려워! 하지만—” It’s too hard! But—

I told him what I wanted to in spelling-error filled Korean. He said something sweet in Korean in return and all my frustration went away.

I believe Good Man when he says sweet things to me, in whatever language, flawed or perfect. But why, when I’m upset, does it sound so much sweeter in Korean? Is that why he wants to speak English all the time? Does it come across differently?


“사범님, 천번 했어요.” Sabumnim, I did one thousand.

?” One thousand?

“네.” Yes.

“아만다, 이천 해요!” Amanda, do two thousand!

I wrinkled up my nose. “아마 할 수 없어요—” Maybe…that’s not possible.

“화이팅!” Fighting!

“하겠어요!” I’ll do it!

Master appeared while I was on 1,200. When I was done, I let the rope fall from my hands. It flew to the floor.

“이천이나 했어요!” I did two thousand!

“하겠어요!”(As a side: Good Man said that the correct thing to say would have been “이천 번이나 했어요!” (이)나 is a marker attached to numbers that are larger than you would expect. I learned this in Sogang 2B and thought, When in the world will I ever use this?)

I am wide awake now and I think tomorrow morning I may be in for a tough time getting out of bed…

Lucky Me

Conversation with my coworkers at lunch yesterday.

“Amanda, is your boyfriend the eldest son?”

“Yes, the only son.”

“Oh,” knowing glances between women about being in a relationship with the eldest son, “Is he a good son?”

I laughed, “No. He says he is ‘a bad son, but a good boyfriend.'”

Cool Co-Teacher touched my arm and said, very genuinely, “Oh, that is very good! A bad eldest son is the best to marry, because he will put you first. A good son puts his mother first. You should marry him.”

I laughed, “Is your husband a good son?”

“Ummm, not too much, but sometimes. I wish he were a little more bad.”

Another coworker struggled to find words in English (we’d been speaking in both languages). “Yes! Um—him, don’t let go! OK?”


I finished The Little Prince yesterday. I was very excited to do so, as this is only the second (chapter) book I’ve ever read in another language (the first being Pippi Longstocking in Swedish).

When I finished it, I still had ten mins left to my subway ride, so I thought about how I read the book. When I first started reading it, I was focussed on how much I didn’t know, how much I didn’t understand. Around chapter 4 (a very long chapter—for this book, which has very short chapters) I thought, “This is too hard, I should quit.” But I was determined not to.

At some point, I started focussing less on what I didn’t know and more on what I did know. I started enjoying it and not worrying about what I didn’t understand. Oddly, the last chapter, which was probably the least concrete of all the chapters was the easiest for me to read.

I also have a copy of this book as a graphic novel, which I started reading today. Now this is interesting because it’s been rewritten and simplified a bit. That whole fourth chapter doesn’t even seem to be in it. I hope the water pill seller is… In any case, I am really enjoying this book because the pictures help me keep my place and the dialogue is entirely in Banmal, which is good for me to read.

I am writing down words and grammar patterns I don’t know or find remarkable. I am not writing down every word I don’t know, just the ones I want to. Some come up multiple times, but I’m still not sure of the meaning. Some (사막, for example) I’ve already figured out, but I learned from the book. Some are compound verbs that I figured out but wanted to mark anyhow. Some are words that I think are just fun to say (쓸쓸하다). I’ve noticed some grammar patterns that I learned in Sogang (and wondered, “When will I ever use this?”) and some that I’m curious about. I’ll be posting about these things on my Korean language blog.

I’m in another excited phase of learning Korean. I have technically made less progress in this language than in Spanish (I’m finishing 2B, which would be two semesters of Sogang) and I took two years of college Spanish. Wait. Actually…I think the Sogang course is three or four hours a day and my Spanish class was only one. Well, now, that might be the difference. Still, I studied Spanish for two years in college, which was apparently the “fluency” level (meaning it was the foreign language requirement of every college my friends or I went to) and got Bs. I was never anywhere near as functional in Spanish as I am in Korean.

And I never even dated any hot Spanish-speaking men.

Had I known Good Man was around, I would’ve started studying Korean years ago! ㅋㅋㅋ

Maybe I’ll Get Lucky and Get Mono

I wasn’t feeling well Friday, so I stayed home. Today my Cool Co-Teacher said, “Are you feeling better?”

“Yeah, I slept a lot Friday.”

“Yeah, you still look a little pale. But it’s OK. It makes you prettier looking! Really, you are prettier today because you are still so pale looking.”

Hanbok Shopping

Hanbok Shopping


Although a hanbok is…ah…not the most flattering garment on Western females, I have decided that I want one as a souvenir of my time in Korea.

Good Man decided that since he’s an adult man and his 24-year-old hanbok doesn’t fit, it was time for him to buy one as well.

Where will I wear this? I have no idea. I don’t care.

Since Master’s Wife’s Mother used to make hanboks, she told us to go to Gwangjang market. Good Man and I told Jennifer and Sung Hyun of our plans last time we met and invited them, too. Unfortunately, Sung Hyun had to work, but Jennifer came out, which was so nice. (And slightly weird. We’ve never met without both of the people in both couples there.)

광장 한복 시장

We went to the market, which none of us had been to before. It was great fun as there was a large flower market (though it’s probably not the flower market) there and all of the sights, smells, and sounds of a market.

We called the number of the hanbok shop and the man came and met us, which was fantastic since, in traditional market fashion, there were hundreds of hanbok shops in the building. We never would’ve found him.

Good Man’s Hanbok Colors

The hanbok man that worked with us was awesome. He was so friendly and gently steered us towards good choices. Good Man’s hanbok will be these colors. The pants will be blue, the shirt white, the jacket peach brocade. That golden patch will be on the center front of his jacket.

My Hanbok Colors

My hanbok will have a blue jacket and pink skirt and bow. (No, I can’t believe it either. Yes, I think it will look lovely.) It will have white trim on the sleeves and neckline and be embroidered with flowers that have both the blue and pink in them.

I wanted purple, but the man wouldn’t let me get it because purple is a funeral color! Well I sure as heck didn’t know that, so I’m glad he gently steered me away from that.

I told Good Man I would look like a pregnant mushroom and asked how to say that in Korean. “임신한 버섯일 거 같아?” He just looked at me and said, “But how can a mushroom be pregnant?”

Jennifer Wants Aqua

Jennifer wasn’t buying a hanbok, but we got the man’s business card for her for the future. She’s already decided on her jacket color.

After choosing hanbok colors, I got to get my shoes. And my shoes are…red. Red silk and rubber shoes. With a pink and blue hanbok. Red silk and rubber elf shoes, because the toes point up. It’s the Korean way.

My “I can’t find big enough shoes but I will endure blisters for a month to make these fit” Converse size is 250 mm. My “Wow, I almost found the right size and All-Stars are loose-fitting” Converse size is 255. Well to my utter shock, they had size 260 slippers. My big toe is still a little smooshed, but I’m sure they’ll be fine after wearing them around the house for a few hours. In fact, I am very tempted to pick up more elf shoes to wear with some of my Vietnamese silk clothing.

Jennifer and I joked (quite seriously) that Koreans can throw together colors we’d never put together and when they do it in silk in a hanbok, it suddenly looks really good together. It’s like Korean magic.

I didn’t realize that shoes and socks were included in the hanbok price. All told the jacket, skirt, underskirt (which acts as a bra and binds your breasts flat!), socks and shoes—all done in silk and made to fit me—came to much less than I expected. I was relived when the price was quoted. Interestingly, Good Man’s hanbok cost more than mine!

After buying hanboks, we shopped around the market for a bit. Jennifer and I squealed when we passed the black market PX goods, and we both bought Western goods. Jennifer and Good Man battled a crazy (plant) pot seller lady and I picked up dried kiwi. After shopping, we went and had some tea and coffee together.

Jennifer and Me

Good Man took some great photos of Jennifer and me. When I looked at this photo full sized, I realized that we have nearly identical eye colors. Her eyes are a bit more blue, mine are a bit more green, but the similarity was surprising.

Tea. Leaf.

I could see a lone leaf on a branch reflected in my tea. Taking this photo was an exercise in patience and balance.

Good Man

Good Man swears he wasn’t bored, but he looks like he’s thinking, “Ladies, please, please stop talking. Please.”

A wonderful Saturday. I’m very excited about picking up my hanbok on May 10th! And I’m glad Jennifer was able to come. It was nice to have her there since Good Man is slightly colorblind.

Where Am I?

Last weekend Good Man flipped through television stations. He momentarily settled on a show called 아프리카 in Korean. Africa. It had another name in English, which we saw at the end of the opening credits (A Long Way or something similarly bland).

I actually tried to read the subtitles in Korean for a few moments. He turned the station. I looked at him.

“Was that a Chinese drama, subtitled in Korean, set in Africa, with an English title?”

Good Man nodded and laughed.

“Damn. This planet is small,” I said.


I really did not want to go to taekwondo last night. But!

I went! When I got there I didn’t even look at anyone else. I went to open the closet door and heard, “Amanda!”

I looked and it was Studious! I haven’t seen him in a very long time, probably a year. “[Studious]! 오랜만이예요!” Long time, no see! He giggled and we faced each other and I know Koreans don’t hug, but I didn’t care, I hugged him and he hugged me back.

Amanda Eonni’s little brother started bothering us. “Is she your friend? How do you know each other? When did you see each other?” and so on and so forth. We both just ignored him and caught up.

He’s going to the military soon, he’ll be a general solider. He’s also earned his 3rd dan. I got his new phone number and we promised to meet before I leave and before he starts the military, but I’m not sure it will happen.

Still, I was so excited to see him. I miss my boys. A lot.

I went to the doctor today for that pulled muscle. He had to take X-rays, so he asked, “Are you pregnant?”

“God! I hope not!”

He got a bit flustered and said, “I don’t mean that you are…I mean, you’re not married, I know, but I have to ask everyone.”

I nodded, “I know! I was serious! I hope not!”

Good Man came over tonight and we watched a downloaded TV show on my computer. He gets to this show in some convoluted way, and I have no idea how he does it.

“Hey, I need you to show me what to do in case you break up with me,” I said.

Good Man laughed and I defended myself. “It’s a good thing I learned how to mostly do my websites on my own…cause then [AE] broke up with me and I needed to do it without his help.”

Good Man laughed and then slowly shook his head. “I don’t want to tell you,” he said, “cause I don’t want to break up with you.”

Free Hugs and Lovers (Not One and the Same)

On the way to Master’s Friday night, we passed some Free Hugs women near the subway station. I figured they wouldn’t mind if I took their photo, and I was right.

Free Hugs Women, White Day

After I took their photo, one woman ran up to me and hugged me. (I was holding my lens cap in my hand, hence the odd shape.)

After Hug One

After she did, the second one did. I don’t think the third one really wanted to be there.

Hug Two

Saturday night we went to Santa Lucia’s for Italian. I had no clean clothing, so I wore one of the dresses I got in Vietnam. It was a bit warm, so my regular winter coat was too heavy. Yet the lightweight jackets I have are all training jackets. So I was girly from the waist down and sporty from the waist up.

Good Man

Good Man took this photo. An “Amanda Look,” don’t you think?

An Amanda Look

I shot this photo of two lovers. I like the contrast of the guys hanging out, the kid looking at ice cream, the restaurant employee working…

Lovers I

This shot was purely accidental. I was holding my camera in my hand at my side, randomly shooting.

Lovers II

This one was taken in the elevator.

Suspicious Good Man

Sunday afternoon, walking to the subway station, I paused to take some photos.

Reflections I

Reflections II

Soft Focus